Flying Finn Raikkonen storms back into top 10
26 months after he last achieved the feat, Kimi Raikkonen broke into the Castrol EDGE Rankings top 10 following his storming victory in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The Finn captured the first win of his grand prix comeback with characteristic nonchalance, even in the face of a late safety car which wiped out his previous advantage over Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.
In the process, he also made another massive jump up the Rankings order – building on a season in which he has already proved worthy of his Flying Finn moniker.
The 33-year-old had effectively started his season 373rd overall in the Rankings, the legacy of a lacklustre conclusion to his World Rally Championship spell.
That has changed dramatically across the first 18 races of this season however, with Raikkonen making massive, and unrelenting, progress up the order.
He moved into the top 20 for the first time following his seventh-place finish in India, before his brilliant victory on the Yas Marina tarmac catapulted him a further six places up the order and into ninth.
Though Lewis Hamilton in fifth remains some way ahead of Raikkonen on points, the Briton’s McLaren team-mate Jenson Button is within touching distance.
Conceivably Raikkonen could therefore end the year inside the Rankings top six, breaking the Rankings domination of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.
As he gained, his bid to close on the overall leaders was also aided by a destructive, breathless and in places bizarre Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton’s retirement, whilst comfortably leading, was for example a major factor in Raikkonen’s victory – even if he was then faultless for the remainder of the race.
Hamilton was not the only man to exit and lose Rankings ground.
Mark Webber, for example, started second but was immediately jumped by Raikkonen away from the line.
After several failed attempts to fight his way back up the order, the Australian pitted just before team-mate Sebastian Vettel – who had started from the pitlane – could attack him for position.
Webber’s race only got worse. Coming out behind traffic, he was then caught out as Sergio Perez, Paul di Resta and Romain Grosjean all tripped over each other.
Wiped out and forced to retire, Webber lost a chunk of points and dropped to fourth, once more behind nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb.
Though Vettel turned in a superlative, if assisted, drive to third, he too lost ground as a result of having to drop his dominant victory in India last year.
He fell to his lowest total in 27 months as a result, although he remains well clear of the chasing pack, fittingly led by his title rival Fernando Alonso.
Aside from Raikkonen, Pastor Maldonado and Jean-Eric Vergne were the weekend’s other big gainers.
Fifth was enough to send Maldonado into the top 50 for only the second time, while Vergne vaulted 12 spots to 74th after coming home 12th.